10 Ways To Save Money On Alaska Family Cruises

10 Ways To Save Money On Alaska Family Cruises
Alaska is an amazing destination for family cruise vacations. This magnificent state is filled with wildlife, adventure, beautiful scenery and exciting experiences that are fun for the whole family. Imagine taking the kids on a thrilling dog sled ride, watching humpback whales breaching, ziplining or hiking off the beaten path in Alaska’s rainforests, fishing for salmon, and seeing massive grizzly bears prowling along the shoreline.

While Alaska cruises are fabulous, flights and shore excursions can also be expensive for families. Cruise costs can add up, too. If you're planning an Alaska cruise, here are ten money-saving tips to help you get the most from your family’s vacation budget:

1. Use a great cruise travel agent. Cruise agents can help your family find the best Alaska cruise, save money, and monitor sales after booking to get upgrades and more. Talk with your travel agent about your vacation goals, your budget, the ages of your children, and the types of activities you’re seeking on shore and at sea. Both the ship and the itinerary are important in Alaska. Your agent can suggest the best ship and cruise options for your family, plus provide assistance with flights and shore excursions. At CruiseCompete.com, vacation shoppers can anonymously submit the ship and sailing date they're interested in and let hundreds of cruise agents bid for their business.

2. Look for kids sail free deals. Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line and others, offer special promotions that include complimentary cruise fares for third and fourth guests on select cruise voyages. Norwegian Cruise Line has their newest ships in Alaska and their ships are very family friendly. Royal Caribbean also offers kids sail free promotions at certain times on selected cruises. Check with Royal Caribbean or your travel agent for more details. While kids sail free deals aren’t available on all cruise lines, many offer specially reduced third and fourth guest fares.

3. Check air costs before finalizing your itinerary. Flights to Alaska can be expensive. Price out air travel options to and from popular cruise departure ports – like Seattle, Vancouver and the Anchorage area – to see what works best for you before choosing your cruise. Seattle is served by several low-cost airlines. Some low-cost airline flights don't show up on popular booking sites, so make sure to check their websites. If you have airline frequent flyer miles, this trip might be the time to use them. Make sure to book flights early for the best availability and itineraries.

4. Consider independent shore excursions. If you're taking a cruise in Alaska, shore excursion expenses can really add up. Book your tours independently to save money. There are pros and cons for booking through the ship or on your own - and yes, the ship will wait for you if you buy your excursion through the cruise line. But booking your own tours independently can easily save you hundreds of dollars on some types of tours. Visit sites like Viator, ShoreTrips, and the ports’ official tourism websites for information on available public transportation, car rental companies, attractions and more. If you’re taking a voyaging through Alaska with a small ship line such as UnCruise Adventures, shore excursions are generally included.

5. Find Buy-One, Get-One Free Alaska deals. If there are two or more of you traveling together, consider purchasing the Alaska TourSaver. Available in a booklet or via phone app, this resource offers more than a hundred 2-for-1 deals on many of Alaska's top tours, hotels, car rentals, shore excursions and attractions - but it's important to book early. Many tour operators only allow a limited number of TourSaver coupons to be used per day. For more information, go to www.toursaver.com.

6. Join the group. Check out the Roll Call boards on Cruise Critic and sign up for your ship's sailing. This is a great way to meet other people who'll be traveling on your ship and organize group tours in advance. In addition, the Cruise Critic boards provide lots of money-saving "been there, done that" advice from fellow cruisers and valuable information on independent tour operators. You might even get a free cocktail party, depending on what cruise line you're on and how many people sign up.

7. Rent a car. Car rentals are one of the most flexible, budget-friendly ways to get out there and truly see Alaska. For families, especially those with younger kids or groups of 4 or 5, renting a car can be a real lifesaver. It's often much cheaper than buying 4-5 individual tours and it allows families to make their own schedules as well. Ports like Skagway, Ketchikan and Anchorage can be perfect for independent car rental tours. Book rental cars as soon as you book your cruise. Rental car costs can skyrocket quickly, so plan ahead. In addition to major rental car companies, check out Expedia, Priceline, AutoSlash, CarRentals.com and others.

8. Take the bus. Check out available public transportation in your ports of call and port of embarkation. For example, there's a public bus available to Juneau’s Mendenhall Glacier that will cost only a small fraction of what they're charging on the ship.

9. Access the Internet in port Internet access is often key for both parents and kids, but Internet usage can be expensive on cruise ships. Each Alaska port has Internet cafes available. Check the port's tourism site for more information or ask one of the ship's crew members. Crew members often know where the best Internet cafes are located. Popular apps such as Viber and WhatsApp can help cut down on phone and messaging charges. If it is important for family members to have Internet access on days at sea, check for special Internet package deals on embarkation day.

10. Shop for accommodations. Check out a wide variety of options if your family will be staying in Seattle, Vancouver or Anchorage pre- or post-cruise. Food costs can be expensive for an entire family, so look for lodging that has a kitchenette or includes free breakfast. Sites like Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO can be helpful. If you'd prefer a hotel, booking sites include Trivago, Booking.com, Priceline and Expedia can offer good rates. Families should be careful when considering bidding for accommodations on sites like Priceline and Hotwire, as bedding for more than two people is typically not guaranteed.

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